Catalina Lifesciences is a practitioner supplement firm that I’ve had my eye on this year—and apparently, I am not the only one impressed with the innovative business model behind the company’s brand Bariatric Advantage, a nutritional supplement line designed specifically for weight-loss surgery patients. On August 20, the leading practitioner supplement company Metagenics Inc. announced it was purchasing Catalina Lifesciences for an undisclosed amount.
Helping meet the unique nutritional needs of the 230,000 Americans who undergo weight-loss surgery each year was the impetus behind the creation of Bariatric Advantage in 2002. “After undergoing bariatric surgery, a patient requires special nutritional attention for the remainder of his or her life,” Thomas Kinder, president and CEO of Catalina Lifesciences, told Nutrition Business Journal earlier this year. Once a weight-loss surgeon introduces his or her patient to the Bariatric Advantage line of products, that person could ostensibly be a customer for decades, Kinder added. “The average age for [bariatric] surgery is 40, so it’s a relationship that we could maintain for many, many years.”
The Bariatric Advantage business is a “perfect fit” with Metegenics’ mission of using therapeutic nutrition to combat chronic illness, said Metagenics CEO Fred Howard. “Working together, Metagenics and Bariatric Advantage will shape the market in the rapidly growing bariatric nutrition field,” said Howard (who took over as CEO on August 16, when Metagenics Founder and CEO Jeff Katke became the company’s chairman). “We will continue to invest in scientific validation, new product development and distribution to support these programs.”
Both Metagenics and Bariatric Advantage have successfully sold conventional medical doctors on the benefits of nutritional supplementation—which I believe will play a key role in growing and strengthening the legitimacy of the dietary supplement market moving forward. In the case of Bariatric Advantage, Catalina Lifesciences has relied on practitioner education to bring the majority of bariatric surgeons operating in the United States on board with its supplement products.
“Even though they are doing these invasive procedures that can cause nutritional problems, bariatric surgeons don’t receive nutritional training or generally know much about nutrition,” said Jacqueline Jacques, ND, chief of scientific affairs for Bariatric Advantage. “The more we increase what we do with education and support services, the better our [surgeon] retention is and the more we continue to experience accelerated growth, even in a down economy.”
Bariatric Advantage also uses the Internet to support its surgeons’ sales. According to Kinder, the company has built e-stores for more than 500 of its bariatric surgeon customers, who typically sell Bariatric Advantage supplements as a value-added service for their patients. “Obviously, the e-commerce component helps with sales, but it also enables patients to stay in contact with their doctor and learn about changes to the nutrition protocol for this category,” Kinder told NBJ. Thanks to help from the Internet and customers who require specific nutritional supplements for the rest of their lives, nearly 60% of Bariatric Advantage's sales are generated via auto-ship programs set up on the web, Kinder said.
Under the Metagenics’ umbrella, Bariatric Advantage will retain its branding and continue to be run by Kinder and his leadership team. Said Kinder, “The additional resources provided by Metagenics’ research, business systems and global presence will expand our ability to bring the advantages of our products to a much broader audience of bariatric patients and healthcare professionals worldwide.”
For more on recent M&A transactions within the nutrition industry, check out NBJ's Finance and Investment issue (which is hitting subscriber mailboxes now).